Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline

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Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline, Wing & Groove Theatre Company. Part swashbuckling epic, part dark absurdist allegory, George F. Walker's melodrama is frustratingly uneven, lacking the discipline to adhere to either genre and the continuity to synthesize its pastiche of styles. Though its meditations on the nature of good and evil are initially intriguing, much of Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline plays like an adolescent masturbatory fantasy. Walker's swarthy pirates and buxom, nubile women engage in rape, domination, and bondage without a hint of moral consequence. And like his characters' motivations, Walker's intentions are tough to pin down. Without a clear dramatic axis or anchor, his characters simply tread water for two hours and then drown.

The cast of Wing & Groove's production unfortunately resists the natural impulse to make Walker's travesties more humane and sympathetic. And director Barton Pitchford strives to find order in this jumbled play by concentrating on its more conventional dramatic elements. But if anything, this melodrama might be better served by a more ham-handed, more manic approach. Its perverse twisting of archetypes aside, Zastrozzi is a cipher; though it has a colorful exterior, it's as hollow as a jack-o'-lantern. --Nick Green

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